The Difference Between Having an Idea and Owning an Idea

It’s common for people on my team to bring up great ideas.

“We should try this.”
“This process isn’t working well—here’s a better way.”
“What if we did this for our students and hiring partners?”

Hearing those questions is one of the best parts of my job—I love working with people who challenge the way things are done and want to make them better.

There’s a difference, though, between having an idea and owning an idea.

It’s easy to suggest something, especially if there’s friction in your job and you’d like that to change. But actually doing the work of making that change is a different story. Some people like the idea of their idea more than they care about making it a reality.

So, when someone on our team has a great idea, my response is often simple:

Great. Make it happen.

I believe that’s created an environment of ownership—where instead of feeling good about having good ideas people on my team take on the responsibility of making the company and the way we do things better.

If you encourage ownership, especially as experience is gained and trust is built, people begin to make things happen without asking. That’s risky, but ideal. There shouldn’t be an approval process for doing awesome stuff. Will things be done wrong? Absolutely. But I’d rather course-correct after a heroic attempt than have a lack thereof.

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Practicing the art of bringing guns to a knife fight.

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